Twenty Years and Two Children

Sep 09  |  Katie Ess

They sit close together. He touches her hair, runs his fingers through it as she talks. Her hands wave about and her face animates as she describes something. When she’s done talking, they both laugh and scoot closer together. They share a dessert – something chocolatey, from the look of it. He raises his glass in what I imagine is a toast, and their glasses make an audible clink as they tap them together, then sip.

My husband sits next to me, absorbed in something on his phone. His back is angled out, away from me. Our two children sit across from us. The older one dips his chicken strips in ranch dressing, then takes a huge bite, painting his lips with the sauce. The youngest peels his corn dog daintily, as though there were an award for “most artistic breading removal”. We are six days into a seven-day family vacation, and we have all run out of things to talk about. We chew in silence, and I continue to watch the couple across from us.

I remember when we used to be like them, before twenty years of marriage and two children. His hand on my back when we walked, just to maintain physical contact. The moment when something happened to me at work, and I couldn’t wait to come home and tell him about it, because I knew his mouth would crinkle up in just that certain way when he smiled. Holding hands as we told some special joke that only the two of us would get.

I look over at him, and he senses my gaze. “What?” he asks, eyebrows drawing together.

“Nothing,” I reply. “Just looking at you.”

“Well stop it,” he says. “It’s creepy.”

I nibble at my salad for a few seconds. It’s dry and unsatisfying, but it’s the only thing on the menu that has vegetables. The waitress had promised me there would be a vinaigrette on it, but I’m sure there isn’t. I shift the leaves around, as though changing their position will improve their taste.

Abruptly, the couple across from us splits apart. “NO!” she says loudly, then looks around, realizing she’s been heard by everyone. She begins muttering to him heatedly. He puts his hand on her back; she pushes it away. His tone is sharp as he replies, and she looks shocked at what he’s said. Her eyes well with tears. She grabs her purse and rushes out the door. He hastily throws some cash on the table and races after her.

My husband looks up at this last bit. “Trouble in paradise?” he asks, winking at me. His mouth crinkles at the side in that certain way.

“Guess so,” I shrug. We settle the check and hold hands as we start to leave. Our children grab our hands on either side, completing the line. “Potato,” our youngest says, and the rest of us laugh together at the joke that only the four of us understand.

One Comment
  1. Frances3 months ago

    Awesome piece, so well shown. This is a powerful story that hit me where it hurts.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *